Beekeeping 101 - Removing Bees From Supers in Order to Extract Honey
Probably the oldest and most direct technique to remove honey from bees was to bundle up as much as possible - probably at night - and just tear into the colony, in the process taking numerous stings. The development of smokers to subdue bees was a major advancement in honey removal. Using a lot of smoke is not recommended as it can easily permeate the wax combs and contaminate the honey.
Aside from taking excessive numbers of stings, removing honey during cold weather periods is a simple way to take honey from bees. Practically all the bees will be in the cluster and not in the supers. Though bees don't care for the procedure, they can be brushed from combs with a soft bristle brush. This procedure is simple and cheap, but can result is a substantial number of bee stings. The old standard still apples. Take the honey when the fewest bees are at home.
Bee Traffic-Flow Control Devices to Remove Honey
Various types of bee valves (eg. the Porter Bee Escape) and escape boards are available that will allow bees to move from: supers but not return to them. The Porter bee escape fits in the inner cover (Bee Escape + Inner Cover = Escape Board). This model of escape board and others that work on the same principle, is put beneath honey supers. Cool nights are a great help in the successful use of escape boards because bees move back to the brood nest area leaving the supers. Advantages are: (1) bee escapes and escape boards are inexpensive, and (2) they are simple. Disadvantages are: (1) without cool nights, bees may be slow to move down, (2) robber bees may enter cracks and take honey, (3) supers are handled twice (once to put on the escape devices and a second time to remove them), and (4) a second trip to the yard may be required.
Blowing and Chemicals to Remove Honey
High volume-low pressure air devices can be used (eg a shop vacuum, leaf blower) or can be purchased commercially to remove bees from supers. They are fast but often expensive. However, easily obtained leaf blowers are changing that. The downside of these devices is that they do put a lot of bees in the air, and cause considerable confusion in the bee yard during harvest. Bee yards located near high human populations can get out of control. Chemicals can also purchased and used by soaking false covers that have a cloth interior. These so-called "fume pads" remove bees quickly, but the downside is the strong odor that permeates everywhere when they are in use.
Another way is to have an extra box and lid and place the box on a flat surface like an upside down lid. You remove a frame from the colony and sweep the bees back into their colony. Once the frame is free of bees place it in your empty box and close the lid. After transferring all the frames into the empty box you will have some, but not many bees in the transfer box. Then you can move the box a good distance from the colony and transfer the frames into another empty box. This usually eliminates all the bees that were in the box. Then you can move the box indoors.